By Nikki Iantuono, consultant, Freed Associates.
It’s tough to see the big picture when you’re “inside the frame.” That’s the underlying principle behind enterprise portfolio management (EPM), a top-down way for healthcare organizations to select and manage multiple projects and resources across the entire enterprise to maximize project portfolio value.
With EPM, large projects are centrally evaluated to determine overall progress and effectiveness, actual project spend versus budget, and continued alignment with the larger, strategic objectives of the organization. EPM is particularly valuable for healthcare organizations which often run multiple large projects simultaneously and frequently encounter ongoing project resource conflicts.
That was the constraint faced by a rapidly growing healthcare system which quickly discovered it could no longer manage new large-scale projects as if it were its older, smaller organization. The healthcare system could readily assess individual projects but lacked a big-picture view of the type, size, duration and risk of all of its project investments. The result? Unplanned operational and financial impacts from conflicting projects which led to recurring staff frustration as well as delays in project implementations and the realization of project benefits.
In response, the healthcare system devised and implemented an EPM process to more effectively prioritize its project resource allocations, timing and capacity, and ultimately guide its project investment decisions. While establishing an EPM system took time and resources up-front, it has helped the organization standardize the decision-making information presented to review and approval authorities and improved internal visibility into inflight work and capacity constraints in the system. The lessons learned by this healthcare system around EPM can serve as a guide to other healthcare organizations seeking similar gains in major project processes and outcomes.
Four Key Steps for EPM Success
You’ll first want to determine if an EPM approach is appropriate for your organization. The answer is likely “yes” if you’re regularly encountering any of the following:
- Projects which are frequently delayed, leading to additional remediation costs, uncollected revenue and/or a delayed return on investment
- Projects which spiral into “turf battles,” pitting business units, departments or teams against one another
- Projects which do not or no longer align with and support organization-wide business goals
- Projects which do not or will not deliver long-term value to the organization
Once you’ve determined the need to institute an EPM approach, you’ll have a much higher likelihood of success if you adhere to the following four fundamental recommendations.
Ensure top-level buy-in across the enterprise – Understand that instituting EPM processes may represent a significant change to some within your organization. As with any significant change, some individuals may be resistant to EPM, no matter its merits, unless they’re brought on board early in the process to understand EPM and help establish it within the organization.
To gain top-level buy-in, consider facilitating brainstorming workshops with your organization’s senior executives to define the EPM scope, scale and desired outcomes. Ultimately, your goal is to design and develop a multi-phased, enterprise-wide rollout strategy for EPM, to facilitate gradual understanding and adoption of EPM by staff. A phased rollout strategy might include adding a new project intake and vetting process, standardizing project proposal documentation and creating a project inventory listing key criteria for evaluation.